Gold & Silver Daily

Ed's Critical Reads

Mar 26, 2015

Durable Goods Orders Drop And Miss In Worst Run Since Lehman

For the 3rd of the last 4 months, Durable Goods Orders fell and missed expectations (the worst run since Lehman). A 1.4% drop (against expectations of a 0.2% rise) is made worse by downward revisions of the last month's modest bounce. Across the board the numbers are a disaster - Ex-Trans fell 0.4%, Ex-defense fell 1%, Capital Goods Shipments fell 1.4% with capital goods ex-air dropping a stunning 7.6% YoY.

  • *U.S. FEBRUARY DURABLES ORDERS FALL 1.4%; EX-TRANS. DROP 0.4% (both big misses)
  • *FEB. NON-DEFENSE CAPITAL GOODS ORDERS EX-AIRCRAFT DROP 1.4% (big miss)
  • *JANUARY DURABLE GOODS ORDERS RISE 2%, REVISED FROM 2.8% GAIN (major downward revision)
  • *U.S. FEBRUARY DURABLE GOODS ORDERS EX-DEFENSE DECREASE 1% (big miss)
  • *DURABLE GOODS INVENTORIES IN U.S. INCREASED 0.3% IN FEBRUARY

New orders fell for Computer products, fabricated metals, machinery, transportation, motor vehicle, and a dramatic plunge in non-defense aircraft new orders and even larger (33.1%) collapse in defense aircraft orders.

This news item appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 8:37 a.m. EDT on Wednesday morning---and today's first story is courtesy of reader M.A.

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Dow tumbles 292 points as economy shows cracks

Wall Street is no longer cheering bad economic news.

The Dow dropped 292 points and the S&P 500 declined almost 1.5% after the latest in a long line of alarming economic reports.  The tech-heavy NASDAQ tumbled over 2.3% -- its biggest drop in nearly a year -- as investors worry that biotechs may be overvalued.

For weeks the stock market rallied because investors saw every economic speed bump as an indication the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates extremely low for longer and longer.

"You're at a point now where you can no longer say bad news is good news. That's not working anymore. You've got to show some growth here," said Joe Saluzzi, co-head of trading at Themis Trading.

This article showed up on the money.cnn.com Internet site at 5:05 p.m. EDT yesterday---and I found it in this morning's edition of the King Report.

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Price of Ground Beef Hits Record in February: $4.238 Per Pound

The average price of a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high in February, hitting $4.238 per pound, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In August 2014, the average price for a pound of all types of ground beef topped $4 for the first time, hitting $4.013, according to the BLS.

In September, the average price jumped to $4.096 per pound; in October, the average price climbed to $4.154 per pound; and in November, the average price climbed to $4.201 per pound.

This article was posted on the cnsnews.com Internet site on Tuesday morning EDT---and it's the second offering of the day from reader M.A.

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SEC proposes forcing high-frequency trading firms to register

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday voted to propose a rule that would force high-speed trading firms to register. Such high-speed trading firms, when they conduct business only for their own accounts, are currently exempt from registration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The rule that allows this exemption hasn't been substantively amended since 1983, the SEC says. The Michael Lewis book "Flash Boys" has brought more scrutiny on high-frequency trading.

This single paragraph story appeared on the marketwatch.com Internet site at 11:02 a.m. EDT yesterday---and I thank Brad Robertson for sending it.

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Russia’s Lavrov compliments Obama

Russia has chosen to sidestep the provocative resolution passed with an overwhelming majority of 348 to 48 by the U.S. Congress on Monday urging President Barack Obama to send lethal weapons to Ukraine. Of course, Obama himself would ignore it.

However, the Russian assessment rests on more fundamental considerations. In a television interview in Moscow last week, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was optimistic that Obama is unlikely to decide on supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine. This is what he said:

“So far, the administration of US President Barack Obama has opposed supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine. They are proceeding from considerations rooted in their overwhelming desire for a political solution, and also from purely pragmatic reasons. They are aware that this could lead to a grave military situation. And the most important thing is the European Union doesn’t want it either. It is not taking its cues from a small, aggressive and noisy group of its member countries that couldn’t care less and are eager to endlessly blame Russia for all the sins in the world, to preserve the sanctions against our country, and so on. As things stand now, a change in the E.U. position seems entirely unlikely to me.” [Emphasis added.]

The friendly tenor of Lavrov remarks — as friendly toward Obama as circumstances would permit a Russian foreign minister at the moment — would suggest that there might have been Russian-American cogitations on this topic and Lavrov would have spoken in the light of recent exchanges with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Most certainly, an overall lowering of the U.S.’ anti-Russia rhetoric on Ukraine is palpable in the recent week or two.

This commentary by Indian career diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar appeared on the Asia Times website yesterday---and it's the third story of the day from reader M.A.  It's certainly worth reading.

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Obama Refuses to Meet With NATO Secretary General in Washington

NATO’s new Secretary General is in Washington this week, but despite repeated requests, has been refused a meeting at the White House. Could this be another indication of rising tension between President Obama and European leaders over the proposed EU army?

Nearly every NATO country has hosted the organization’s new head, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, since he took office in October. It’s part of a long tradition which has, until now, been enthusiastically followed by US presidents as a way to illustrate commitment to one of the country’s strongest treaty obligations.

"The Bush administration held a firm line that if the NATO secretary general came to town, he would be seen by the president…so as not to diminish his stature or authority," Kurt Volker, former US representative to NATO, told Bloomberg.

This is a big "up yours" to NATO's plans for the Ukraine.  This very interesting news item was posted on the sputniknews.com Internet site at 7:21 p.m. Moscow time on their Wednesday evening, which was 11:21 a.m. in Washington.  It's the first contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Alberta to bleed 31,800 jobs by end of year in oil price carnage

Alberta, the Canadian province holding the world’s third-largest oil reserves, expects 31,800 jobs to be lost for the remainder of the year as a crude price crash forces producers to cut costs.

Even with the job losses, overall employment will rise 1% in 2015 because of gains carried over from December, the provincial finance ministry said Tuesday in a statement to reporters in Calgary. That compares with a 2.2% increase in employment last year. It would take a loss of 80,000 jobs before year-end to prevent employment from growing, the government said.

Suncor Energy Inc., Cenovus Energy Inc. and other oil producers have already shed thousands of jobs this year as they cut spending on new projects. The energy industry accounts for about a quarter of Alberta’s economy, making the province the most reliant on crude in Canada, and previously fueling a boom that saw real estate prices and the number of millionaires in Calgary surge.

This short Bloomberg news item found a home on the financialpost.com Internet site on Tuesday---and it's the second offering of the day from Brad Robertson.

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Russian Shipbuilder to Sue German Engine Supplier

Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) is preparing to sue Germany-based company MTU for its failure to supply engines for Russian corvettes, Ekho Moskvy radio station reported on Tuesday, citing USC President Alexei Rakhmanov.

MTU refused to supply the power units under a valid €24 million contract, Rakhmanov said.

“As if it wasn’t enough to keep the engines, they also tried to take us to court to avoid returning our advance payment,” he added.

This short article, filed from Moscow, appeared on the russia-insider.com website late on Tuesday Moscow time.

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Europe blocks desperate Greek attempt to stay afloat

The Greek government will not receive €1.2bn (£883m) in European rescue funds after officials ruled the Leftist government had no legal claims on the cash.

Athens requested the return of money it said was erroneously handed to creditors from Greece's own bank recapitalisation fund, the Hellenic Financial Stability Facility (HFSF).

The transfer was originally arranged by the previous Greek administration.

But eurozone officials have blocked the claim, saying it is "legally impossible" transfer the money back to the debt-stricken country.

This news item appeared on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 10:00 p.m. GMT in London last evening---and it's another news item I found embedded in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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The Political Perils of a Ukraine Default

For the last 10 days, Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko has been visiting private creditors in Europe and the U.S. to explain why they should help her create a "new Ukraine," by agreeing to write off some of its debt. Back home, meanwhile, an oligarch with a private army was busy occupying two state energy companies in a style decidedly reminiscent of the old Ukraine.

The contrast is no criticism of Jaresko, an American-Ukrainian from Chicago who seems committed to the economic reform Ukraine needs. Indeed, the attempt by Igor Kolomoisky, a billionaire businessman and regional governor, to keep control of two state energy companies is grist for the pitch she’s been making to private holders of Ukraine’s sovereign debt.

Jaresko says they'll never get a better price for their bonds than now, because there’s a calm amid the Ukrainian storm. There's something resembling a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine; the currency is stable(ish); there’s a government committed to reform under the International Monetary Fund’s $40 billion loan program; and that government has support for that in parliament.

Her list of shocks that could end this lull is longer and all too plausible -- especially if the country's creditors don't help out before May, potentially forcing the IMF to withdraw its program and force a disorderly default.

This rather short commentary was posted on the bloomberg.com Internet site at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday afternoon---and I thank South African reader B.V.  It's worth your time.

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Moody’s downgrades Ukraine heralding imminent default

International rating agency Moody's has downgraded the long-term issuer rating of Ukraine to the second lowest Ca grade from Caa3, leaving the outlook negative and a high possibility of the country’s imminent default.

“Although negotiations over the specific details of the restructuring are only now getting underway, Moody's believes that the likelihood of a distressed exchange, and hence a default on government debt taking place, is virtually one hundred percent,” Moody’s said in a news release Tuesday.

Another reason for downgrading Ukraine’s rating is that foreign private lenders are expected to incur substantial losses due to the government's plan of restructuring the bonds it has issued or guaranteed, the agency said.

The negative outlook reflects the agency’s expectation that the level of Ukrainian external debt will remain very high, despite plans to restructure the debt and carry out reforms.

This short article appeared on the Russia Today website at 10:22 a.m. Moscow time on their Wednesday morning---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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'A revolution is impossible in Belarus'

The political year for the Belarusian opposition begins today, on Freedom Day, with a state-sanctioned rally.

The day, which marks the foundation of the Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918, used to bring thousands to the streets of Minsk to oppose the government of Alexander Lukashenko – who has been in power since 1994.

Not anymore. The political opposition is suffering from years of exclusion from public sphere; they have not held a seat in parliament since 1996, they are virtually ignored by state-affiliated media and the government have restricted their right to protest.

The appetite for a revolution has also been quelled by events in neighbouring Ukraine. Belarusians are cautious. The risk of the state collapse, civil strife and Russian interference seems too high. The west, particularly the US, take the same line. Preserving Belarusian independence, not democratisation, has become the highest priority.

This short, but very interesting essay appeared on theguardian.com website at 1:15 p.m. GMT on Wednesday afternoon, which was 9:15 a.m. in New York---and it's the second offering of the day from reader B.V.  I'm not sure what to make of it, but I am curious as to the reason it's appearing at this juncture.

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Saudi Arabia moves heavy arms to border with chaos-stricken Yemen

Saudi Arabia is deploying a significant task force to the border with neighboring Yemen, where Houthi Shiite rebels allegedly forced the president to leave the country. President Hadi has been asking the U.N. to approve the use of foreign forces in Yemen.

The situation in Yemen remains murky, with Houthi militants claiming capture of the southern seaport of Aden, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s stronghold. The fighters say the city of Aden is now under their control and they're arresting the president's supporters there.

The rebels claim Hadi has fled the country, and announced a 20 million riyal ($100,000) reward for Hadi's capture, Lebanese-based Al-Manar TV reported, citing the rebels' representatives. While two of the president's aides have said he remains in Aden and has no intention of leaving the country, later reports claim he has left Yemen.

Yemen's president has left the country on a boat from Aden, officials told AP.  Hadi is now traveling by sea to the neighboring country of Djibouti, Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's secretary told RIA Novosti.

This longish, but worthwhile news item appeared on the Russia Today Internet site at 10:31 a.m. Moscow time on their Wednesday morning, which was 2:31 a.m. EDT in Washington.  I thank reader M.A. for digging it up for us.

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Saudi Arabia launches air attacks in Yemen

Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country.

The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen’s capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces­ last week.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who had taken refuge in Aden after fleeing Sanaa, the capital, was said to have escaped. His whereabouts were unknown.

The military operation was announced Wednesday evening in Washington by Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, who said it would last until Yemen’s “legitimate government” was restored.

This news story put in an appearance on The Washington Post website at 10:20 p.m. EDT last night---and it's another article I lifted from this morning's edition of the King Report.

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Chinese demand for Russian oil holds steady

Demand for Russian crude oil in the Chinese economy is expected to hold steady, despite economic faltering in both countries, a Chinese trader said Wednesday.

Chinese officials are describing a "new normal" in an economy slowing from a long period of double-digit growth. For Russia, sanctions pressure in response to crises in Ukraine and the decline in crude oil prices is pushing the country toward recession.

Chen Bo, head of the oil trading subsidiary of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., said from a bilateral energy forum in Beijing both countries would remain strong energy partners.

This UPI story, filed from Beijing, appeared on their Internet site at 6:58 a.m. EDT on Wednesday morning---and I thank Roy for his final offering in today's column.

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Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: U.S. risks epic blunder by treating China as an economic enemy

The U.S. Treasury's attempt to cripple the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank before it gets off the ground is clearly intended to head off China's ascendancy as a rival financial superpower, whatever the faux-pieties from Washington about standards of "governance."

Such a policy is misguided at every level, evidence of what can go wrong when a lame-duck president defers to posturing amateurs in Congress on delicate matters of global geostrategy.

Washington has enraged Britain by trying to browbeat Downing Street into boycotting the project. It has forced allies and friendly countries across the Far East to make a fatal choice between the US and China that none wished to make, and has ended up losing almost everybody. Germany, France, and Italy are joining. Australia and South Korea may follow soon.

Ambrose carves the U.S. a new one, which is a sure sign that they've really stepped in it this time, which is precisely what they've done.  There's also no doubt in my mind that he was given the green light to write it, as he would never have been allowed to be this vitriolic without approval from above. This absolute must read commentary appeared on The Telegraph's website at 8:37 p.m. GMT yesterday evening in London---and I found it in a GATA release that Chris Powell filed from Hong Kong on their Thursday afternoon.

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Lawrence Williams: SocGen’s ultra bearish gold and silver outlook

Analysts at the French Bank Société Générale (SocGen) in their latest research report have forecast that the gold price, having given away all its early year gains, was headed sharply lower, as it saw the dollar continue its gain in strength. They thus expected the bear market in gold to continue further and saw the price as falling to average only $925 an ounce between 2016 and 2019. The timing of this report was perhaps unfortunate in that the forecast for a virtually immediate downturn in gold, together with dollar strength, predated the events of the past few days, which has seen the reverse occur. Gold bulls will be fervently hoping that the bank’s analysts are equally incorrect in their forecast of gold’s longer-term prospects.

It’s not that the SocGen predictions couldn’t happen. Anything is possible with what we see as a gold price dominated by the futures markets and thus by the financial elite (which includes SocGen).

However the more we look at physical gold flows, and the rise in Asian-located precious metals exchange participation and volumes, we just feel that the current dominance of New York and London in gold and silver price setting could be drawing to a close. It would be replaced by pricing on the new Asian precious metals exchanges where there will likely be a different ultimate agenda. Whether that will involve allowing precious metals prices to rise, and rise fast, is anyone’s guess, but the current West to East physical gold flows suggest that this could well be in the cards.

This commentary by Lawrie is definitely worth reading---and it appeared on the mineweb.com Internet site at 12:24 p.m. GMT in London Wednesday afternoon.  I thank Nick Laird for bringing it to our attention.  Perma-gold bear Jeff Christian over at CPM Group was also dumping on the "ancient metal of kings".  His comments appeared in an article on the Bloomberg website on Tuesday afternoon bearing the headline "Gold Prices Seen Declining by CPM for Third Straight Year".  I found this item on the Sharps Pixley website in the wee hours of this morning.

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HSBC 'cautiously optimistic' of gold price outlook in 2015

HSBC is "cautiously optimistic" of the gold price outlook for 2015, predicting a trading range of $1,120/oz-$1,305/oz with an average price of $1,234/oz, the bank said late Tuesday, March 24.

"The possibility that deflationary pressures could bring on negative rates in some economies helps reaffirm our cautiously optimistic view on gold," head analyst James Steel said.

However, in Steel's view gold prices are not "entirely hostage" to monetary developments.

"The recent price slump below $1,150/oz may be encouraging greater demand from price sensitive emerging market buyers, notably, but not exclusively, in India and China," Steel said.

Blah, blah, blah.   As you already know dear reader, the price of gold, along with the other three precious metals, are set by JPMorgan et al in the COMEX futures market irrespective of supply and demand fundamentals---or anything else for that matter---and what they decide, or are instructed to do, determines prices---end of story.  But these so-called "analysts" are oblivious, as their jobs depend on them not seeing this.  This gold-related news item appeared on the platts.com Internet site at 5:49 a.m. EDT yesterday morning---and it's another article I found on the Sharps Pixley website this morning.

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Koos Jansen: Turkey's mint sometimes products more gold coins than U.S. mint

The Turkish mint gets little attention, Bullion Star market analyst and GATA consultant Koos Jansen wrote earlier today, but it is among the biggest in the world and in some recent years has produced more gold coins than the U.S. mint.

Jansen's report is headlined "The Largest Gold Mints in the World"---and it was posted on the bullionstar.com Internet site early Thursday morning Singapore time.  I thank Chris Powell for writing the above paragraph of introduction.

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Mar 25, 2015

Consumer Prices Rise Most Since May 2014, Led By Gas Prices and Shelter Costs

Following the first YoY deflation since 2009 in January, February's CPI YoY data managed to scrape its way back to unchanged (very modestly better than the 0.1% drop expected). Consumer prices rose 0.2% MoM - the most since May 2014 with gas prices up MoM for the first time since June. So what is the narrative now: if tumbling gas prices didn't get consumers to spend, rising gas costs will? Ex food and energy, prices rose 0.2% MoM (slightly hotter than the 0.1% rise expected) led by the shelter index (which increased 0.2 percent) accounting for about two-thirds of the monthly increase. The rent continues to be too damn high for most, and finally the BLS is starting to realize this.

MoM, Consumer prices have jumped from the worst drop since Lehman to the biggest jump since May 2014.

This economic news item appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 8:40 a.m. EDT on Tuesday morning---and today's first story is courtesy of reader M.A.

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How Cold Was It This Winter? So Cold That New Home Sales Hit a 7 Year Record!

For a minute there I thought I was reading the National Enquirer. But the Journal was not alone. All the major media outlets were reveling over the news. The Journal went on to say “New-home sales rose to the highest level in seven years in February, a sign of strong demand that could help boost the broader U.S. housing market.”

That’s the ticket! Strong demand! Housing is back, America! Low pay, unqualified borrowers are back, and we’re selling over a half million houses annually!

Behind that headline, a bump in southerly migration joined with the usual random noise in February in other regions to send the number reported by the back slapping, self-congratulatory, Washington-Wall Street media echo chamber, to da moon.

As usual, they were annualizing a monthly, seasonally adjusted, abstract impressionist interpretation of loosely estimated reality. In other words they multiplied the seasonal adjustment error plus the huge sampling error that is a feature of the first release of this data, times 12. To its credit, the WSJ did point out in a later paragraph that “February’s advance estimate came with a margin of error of plus or minus 15.2 percentage points.” 15.2%! Are you kidding me! Why are we even discussing this number?

This is what passes for news in the main stream media these days.  This commentary by Lee Adler appeared on David Stockman's website yesterday sometime---and I thank Roy Stephens for his his first contribution of the day.

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The Verdict Is In, and America's 401(k) Accounts Are a Crashing Failure

For millions of Americans, the 401(k) plan is a miserable failure — it simply is not shielding enough people from financial struggles in their retirements, according to a CNBC analysis.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates the median amount in U.S. 401(k) accounts is a paltry $18,433 and almost 40 percent of workers have less than $10,000 in those instruments.

"In America, when we had disability and defined benefit plans, you actually had an equality of retirement period. Now the rich can retire and workers have to work until they die," Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist at the New School for Social Research, told CNBC.

The business network said millions of Americans approaching retirement are exiting the workforce with savings that "do not even approach what they will need" for even just healthcare.

It you are an American citizen with a 401[k] plan, this is worth reading.  It appeared on the newsmax.com Internet site at 9:00 a.m. EDT on Tuesday---and it's courtesy of West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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Mike Maloney: The Day the Internet Died

"February 26, 2015. That was the day that freedom of the internet died." Watch Michael Maloney's latest video update to hear his thoughts on the recent ruling on Net Neutrality.

"We're adopting a solution that won't work to a problem that doesn't exist using legal authority that we don't have." - Ajit Pai

This brief 2:31 minute video from Mike appeared on the youtube.com Internet site yesterday---and it's worth your time.

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Canada's Biggest Oil Casualty to Date: Calgary's Nexen Shutters Oil Trading Desk

Last December, traditionally perma-bullish energy trader Andy Hall shocked the world when he became the first casualty of the oil crash after Phibro, his 113 year old employer then owned by Occidental Petroleum after its sale by Citigroup, would liquidate in the US after it failed to buy a buyer. He wouldn't be the last. Overnight, Nexen Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of China's CNOOC Ltd, reported it too would close its crude oil trading division following a round of job cuts announced last week, four market sources said on Monday.

It appears that unlike money-losing shale producers, who still have some balance sheet capacity to eek out funding for a few more weeks/months of operations and product dumping (which sends prices of oil lower not higher which is what those same producers need), oil traders who largely are self-funded no longer have that luxury, and as a result of the failure of oil to bounce, have no choice but to fold it in.

From ReutersThe Calgary-based company, which was acquired by state-controlled CNOOC in 2013 for $15.1 billion, cut 400 jobs last week in North America and the United Kingdom in response to plunging global oil prices.

Three sources said Nexen was closing down its trading operations worldwide, although the majority of activity takes place in Calgary. The company will continue to market its own crude.

This is another story courtesy of the Zero Hedge website.  It was posted there at 8:22 a.m. EDT on Tuesday morning---and I thank reader M.A. for his second story of the day.

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U.K. to Boost Falklands Defense to Counter Argentina Invasion Fears - Reports

The United Kingdom will bolster its defense in the Falklands amid fears Argentina may increase its military capacity and invade the islands, the Telegraph newspaper reported Tuesday.

In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a remote British colony in the South Atlantic that Buenos Aires claimed it owned. The armed conflict between the two nations took the lives of 655 Argentinian and 255 British servicemen. The 74-day Falklands war ended when Argentina gave up their bid to control the islands.

U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon will announce troop and equipment reinforcements to the Falklands on Monday, the newspaper reported. The move comes in response to a U.K. Defense Ministry review suggesting an invasion to the islands is likely.

This news item, filed from Moscow, showed up on the sputniknews.com Internet site at 11:09 a.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday morning, which was 3:09 a.m. EDT in Washington.  It's the second offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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More capital controls as France declares war…on cash

French paper Le Parisien didn’t mince words in the headline: “La chasse au cash est lancée”. Basically ‘hunting season on cash is launched’.

Under the auspices of fighting terrorism, France’s Minister of Finance, Monsieur Michel Sapin, has rolled out a series of eight new restrictions aimed specifically at minimizing the use of cash.

Among the new restrictions is a prohibition of making more than €1,000 in cash payments (down from €3,000 before).

Large cash withdrawals exceeding €10,000 per month will also now be monitored and reported to the French authorities.

This news item was embedded in yesterday's edition of the Sovereign Man.  A reader sent me the story the other day---and I can't find it now, so this will have to do.  Simon Black sent it our way.

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Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos wins 15 seats in Andalusia

Podemos, the Spanish anti-austerity party, will be a prominent force in Andalusia’s regional parliament after it won 15 seats in the party’s first election since its ally Syriza triumphed in Greece.

The Socialists, who have held power in Andalusia for more than three decades, will continue to govern the region. Lead by Susana Díaz, they won 35% percent of the vote, earning them 47 seats, shy of an outright majority.

“Andalusians have made their voices heard through the ballot box,” Díaz, 40, said on Sunday as the results came in.

The election held up Spain’s two-party system, albeit in a weakened state. The People’s party came in second with 27% of the vote, or 33 seats, but the party of prime minister Mariano Rajoy was the biggest loser on the day as the result was a steep drop from the 50 seats it won in the 2012 elections.

This news item appeared on theguardian.com website at 1:14 a.m. GMT on Monday morning---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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European Central Bank to ban embattled Greek banks from holding government bonds

The European Central Bank is set to tighten the noose on Greece a day after the president of the Bank denied the institution was “blackmailing” Athens into agreeing to bail-out conditions.

According to reports, the ECB will move to officially ban Greek banks from increasing their holdings of the country’s short-term sovereign debt, in a bid to break a potentially toxic link between lenders and the stricken sovereign.

The restriction will place a further squeeze on the cash-strapped Greek government, which could run out of money to pay wages and pensions by the end of next month.

Speaking to the European Parliament on Monday, Mario Draghi denied the ECB was acting unfairly towards the Leftist government: “We haven’t created any rule for Greece, rules were in place and they’ve been applied,” said Mr Draghi.

This rather brief news item was posted on The Telegraph's website at 9:00 p.m. GMT yesterday evening---and I found it in the wee hours of this morning.  It's definitely worth reading.

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$100bn NATO claim: Serbian NGOs seek compensation for Yugoslavia bombing

Two non-governmental organizations have said NATO should be required to pay compensation for the massive damage inflicted during the 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

A meeting of the Belgrade Forum for the World of Equals and the Club of Generals and Admirals in Belgrade presented an initiative to hold 28-member NATO financially accountable for the damage that Yugoslavia sustained in the attacks.

Serbian experts put the price tag of the devastation between $60 and $100 billion.

Retired General Jovo Milanovic said that NATO’s military offensive, which was unsanctioned by the United Nations, represented "a violation of all norms of international law that caused enormous material damage to Yugoslavia and huge human casualties,” Tass quoted him as saying.

This very interesting article put in an appearance on the Russia Today website at 12:34 p.m. Moscow time yesterday afternoon---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for sharing it with us.

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Some 10,000 miners go on strike in western Ukraine

Some 10,000 miners are taking part in a protest rally in the city of Chervonohrad in western Ukraine’s Lviv Region, all seven mines of the Lvovugol enterprise have been shut down, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions (CFTU) of Ukraine reported Tuesday.

"Ten thousand miners have stopped work and entered a new phase of an early strike. They are demanding that closure of mines be stopped, and are insisting on the resignation of Energy and Coal Industry Minister [Vladimir] Demchishin," chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Ukraine’s Miners Mikhail Volynets said.

Miners are holding posters where their key demands are written: resignation of [Energy and Coal Industry Minister] Demchishin and full repayment of wage arrears for January and February [as of March 24, only 10 million hryvnias out of 95 million have been paid].

This story, filed from Kiev, showed up on the tass.ru Internet site at 9:03 p.m.  on their Tuesday evening---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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Russian Duma may reauthorize Putin to send the Russian Army into Ukraine

“The Russian Parliament ought to once again give the President of the Russian Federation to use armed force in Ukraine if the U.S. decides to send sizable arms supplies to that country.” This announcement was made by the First Deputy Chairman of the “Just Russia” faction, Mikhail Emelyanov.

The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution on Tuesday recommending the U.S. president to approve arms supplies to Ukraine. The resolution calls on the president to “use the authority provided by Congress to furnish Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons.” According to the authors of the resolution, this measure would “increase the Ukrainian nation’s ability to defend its sovereignty.” The authors of the resolution also exclusively blame Russia for the deaths suffered during the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. At the same time, they ignore the fact that a significant portion of the refugees is in Russia.

“We believe that our parliament should not ignore this resolution. If the U.S. begins genuine lethal weaponry supplies to Ukraine, we should not be shy about supporting the militia, including with weapons, and to give the president the right to send military units on to Ukrainian territory,” Emelyanov told journalists.

In his view, Russia cannot allow Ukraine to be transformed into an “international militant aimed at Russia.”

This interesting---and not entirely surprising commentary showed up on the fortruss.blogspot.ca Internet site yesterday---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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Moscow demands removal of U.S. nuclear missiles in Europe

Russia increased tension over NATO nuclear missiles Tuesday with a demand that the United States remove all non-strategic nuclear weapons from Europe.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich referred to comments by Jen Psaki, his counterpart at the U.S. State Department, that U.S. missiles are under constant U.S. control, as distorted. He added that deployment of U.S. missiles in European NATO countries is a violation of the 1968 Treaty on Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation.

Lukashevich's remarks came after tensions, already ratcheted upward by Russia's contention that it could place nuclear weapons in Crimea, increased over the weekend with the suggestion by a Russian diplomat that the Danish Navy's inclusion of radar on one ship, to involve it in NATO's missile shield, could make Denmark a nuclear target.

This UPI article, filed from Moscow, was posted on their website at 11:18 a.m. EDT yesterday morning---and it is, once again, courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Russian foreign minister: attempts to organize state coup in Venezuela inadmissible

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday any attempts to interfere into Venezuela’s domestic affairs and the United States’ sanctions against Venezuelan citizens are inadmissible.

"Russia and Cuba have reiterated their solidarity with the people of Venezuela, with the legitimate authorities of that country. We consider any attempts to interfere into domestic affairs of that state, illegal sanctions imposed by the United States against a number of Venezuelan citizens inadmissible," Lavrov told journalists during his visit to Havana.

This brief news item, filed from Havana, showed up on the tass.ru website at 9:29 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday evening, which was 1:29 p.m. in Washington.  This is also courtesy of Roy S.

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Anti-Russian propaganda is ‘unconvincing’, because Western narrative is false

You really couldn’t make it up. Almost 24 million people in the E.U. are unemployed. The Greek debt crisis has yet to be resolved. An Islamic State terrorist attack in Tunis, just over 100 miles from Italy. The ever-worsening problem of climate change.

And what are the E.U. elite talking about? How best to counter ‘Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns’. It’s good to know they’ve got their priorities right, isn't it?

At last week’s summit in Brussels, E.U. leaders discussed a range of options, one of which could include the setting up of a new Russian-language TV channel funded by European taxpayers.

A timetable has been laid out: we’re told the E.U.-funded European Endowment for Democracy will present media proposals to a summit in Latvia on May 21-22, and that E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will finalize the plans by the end of June.

This excellent op-edge piece put in an appearance on the Russia Today website on Monday afternoon Moscow time.  I was saving it for Saturday, but thought it worth posting now.  It's definitely worth reading---and it's another offering from Roy Stephens.

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Saudi Arabia Wooing Fired U.S. Shale Workers to ‘Join Our Team’

Workers fired from U.S. shale fields after the collapse in oil prices could soon have a new boss: the nation some blame for driving that decline.

The state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., also known as Saudi Aramco, is posting new job ads online aiming to snap up experts in extracting oil from shale as the country seeks to become a leader in that rapidly expanding effort. Tens of thousands of U.S. workers have been fired since November as oil prices plunged because of oversupplies, driven in part by an OPEC decision supported by Saudi Arabia.

That’s now giving Saudi Aramco a better chance to lure experienced workers to its own shale formations. Difficult living conditions had previously made the country a hard sell, said Tobias Read, chief executive officer of Swift Worldwide Resources, a recruiting firm.

“We’ve seen people who have historically been reticent to look at Saudi Arabia who are now more accepting of a job there,” Read said in an interview.

This Bloomberg story is nine days old---and was posted on their Internet site last Monday.  The reader that sent it to me wishes to remain anonymous.

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Beijing to Shut All Major Coal Power Plants to Cut Pollution

Beijing, where pollution averaged more than twice China’s national standard last year, will close the last of its four major coal-fired power plants next year.

The capital city will shutter China Huaneng Group Corp.’s 845-megawatt power plant in 2016, after last week closing plants owned by Guohua Electric Power Corp. and Beijing Energy Investment Holding Co., according to a statement Monday on the website of the city’s economic planning agency. A fourth major power plant, owned by China Datang Corp., was shut last year.

The facilities will be replaced by four gas-fired stations with capacity to supply 2.6 times more electricity than the coal plants.

The closures are part of a broader trend in China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter. Facing pressure at home and abroad, policy makers are racing to address the environmental damage seen as a byproduct of breakneck economic growth. Beijing plans to cut annual coal consumption by 13 million metric tons by 2017 from the 2012 level in a bid to slash the concentration of pollutants.

This short but interesting Bloomberg article, filed from Beijing, showed up on their Internet site at 9:52 p.m. Denver time on Monday evening---and I thank reader M.A. for sending it our way.

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Costa Rica is now running completely on renewable energy

Costa Rica is running without having to burn a single fossil fuel, and it’s been doing so for 75 straight days.

Thanks to some heavy rainfall this year, Costa Rica’s hydropower plants alone are generating nearly enough electricity to power the entire country. With a boost from geothermal, solar, and wind energy sources, the country doesn’t need an ounce of coal or petroleum to keep the lights on. Of course, the country has a lot of things going in its favor. Costa Rica is a small nation, has less than 5 million people, doesn’t have much of a manufacturing industry that would require a lot of energy, and is filled with volcanoes and other topographical features that lend themselves to renewable energy.

Nonetheless, it is both a noble and significant feat for a nation of any size to eschew fossil fuels completely.

Reader H.W., who went me this article last night, had this to say about it---"I used to live in Costa Rica---and can tell you this: Energy is super expensive. I suppose one can live completely with green energy, but today that price is steep."  That's probably a fair assessment of the price of "green" energy anywhere at the moment.  It was posted on the qz.com Internet site on Monday sometime.

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Freeport-McMoRan: $1.1 billion in dividends just vanished

Freeport-McMoRan stunned investors Tuesday by slashing its dividend 84% – erasing a lucrative income stream for investors and serving up a big reminder these payments aren’t guaranteed.

The company, which explores for materials like copper and gold, announced it is cutting its quarterly dividend down from 31.25 cents a share down to just 5 cents. That’s a massive cut in an implied annual dividend of $1.25 a share to $0.20 a share.

Freeport’s cut is staggering. The reduction takes away $1.05 a share from investors – which is no small sum considering the company has 1.04 billion shares outstanding. All told that amounts to $1.1 billion in lost dividends. The executives will feel the loss, too. CEO Richard Adkerson will miss out on $1.6 million a year in lost dividends.

What makes this cut sting even more is that dividend reductions are extremely rare in the materials sector. There have only been 17 dividend cuts by companies in the S&P 500 materials sector in the past 10 years, including Freeport, says S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Of course, the folks that run this company would never look for the reason why gold and copper are priced the way they are today.  This brief news item showed up on the usatoday.com Internet site at 12:48 p.m. EDT yesterday---and I thank Washington state reader S.A. for sliding it into my in-box shortly after it was posted.

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The Secret of Success in Mineral Exploration -- Louis James, Casey Research

As an investor, I want to bet on the jockeys who win the most races, not just the best-looking horses. So, while I’m no Tom Peters or Stephen Covey, I’ve made a study of success over the last decade. The critical question for a metals investor: what does it takes to be a serially successful mine-finder?

Before I give you the answer, let me give you a little context on just how difficult this is. It’s not as simple as looking for a needle in a haystack; it’s more like looking for a needle in a vast field of steel haystacks, each one of which will give your metal detector false positives. And it’s very expensive to drill holes into them, which is the only way you can test for a needle’s hidden presence.

The odds of any given anomaly actually indicating the presence of a mineable needle are something like one in 300. It typically takes about 10 years to get the needle out of the haystack, and commodity price fluctuations can turn cash-cow operations into money bleeders in the blink of an eye. Pricked by the fickle needle of fate.

So, why would anyone invest in such an uncertain business? Because the world simply cannot function without metals, and the rewards for those who deliver them can be spectacular. Doubling or tripling one’s investment on a successful mineral discovery is routine, and 1,000% gains (10-baggers) are common enough that resource speculators have strategies for bagging them. It’s rare, but 50 and even 100 times one’s initial investment do happen in this volatile sector.

This commentary by Louis put in an appearance on the Casey Research website yesterday---and it's worth reading.

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HSBC Not Closing Gold Vaults – Safety Deposit Boxes of Clients‏ Being Closed

A rumor that HSBC is rapidly and quietly closing gold vaults where clients gold bullion was stored and gold in the GLD ETF is stored has been swirling around the Internet.

After conversations with key players in the industry including a bullion dealer who used the safety deposit boxes for storage and delivery to clients, we can now confidently say that the speculation was incorrect.

What HSBC is actually doing is closing its safety deposit box facilities some of which are in vaults and strong rooms in branches. The vaults are not specialist gold vaults rather standard vaults or strong rooms which contain safety deposit boxes. These safety deposit boxes hold all sorts of valuables – from legal documents, to family heirlooms, to art works, to jewellery and of course bullion coins and bars.

Availability of safety deposit boxes is in decline in Britain and much of the world. Costs of security, insurance and opportunity to use such facilities in a more profitable manner are driving the closures. Banks in Ireland including the Bank of Ireland claim that the safety deposit boxes are “causing an unacceptable health, safety and security risk in some branches.”

The lunatic fringe had a field day with this story when it first appeared a month or so ago, as they took the HSBC press release totally out of context---and I'm happy to see it set straight in Mark O'Byrne's commentary over at the goldcore.com Internet site  on Tuesday.  Brad Robertson was the first reader through the door with it---and it's worth our time.

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Gold Markets May Finally Have Something To Cheer About

Momentum has been building amongst gold stocks this week. With gauges like the S&P/TSX Global Gold Index up 9% over the last week of trading.

The interesting thing is, this rebound has come with very little movement in the gold price itself. As I write, bullion is languishing below $1,190 per ounce.

But a few events are on the horizon that could really give gold investors something to cheer about. In some of the largest consuming nations on the planet.

A prime example being regulatory changes announced last week in the world’s top gold buyer, China. Which should go a long way toward increasing bullion demand in this part of the world.

This bit of shallow main stream fluff about gold appeared on the finance.yahoo.com Internet site yesterday morning EDT---and it's courtesy of Howard Wiener.

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Koos Jansen: Indian gold imports exploding in March

India's gold imports are soaring again, Bullion Star market analyst and GATA consultant Koos Jansen wrote yesterday, even as the Indian government is searching for ways to "monetize" -- or, really, paperize -- the metal.

Jansen's commentary is headlined "Indian Gold Imports Exploding in March" and it was posted on the Singapore Internet site bullionstar.com.  I thank Chris Powell for writing the above paragraph of introduction.  It's definitely worth reading.

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Mar 24, 2015

The world's next credit crunch could make 2008 look like a hiccup: The Telegraph

A solar eclipse, a super moon, the FTSE 100 breaching 7,000 and the U.S. Federal Reserve speaking in tongues - truly some kind of financial apocalypse must be nigh. Well, maybe.

We are certainly living in strange times. An unprecedented monetary experiment is coming to a staggered end and no one knows the potential repercussions - a plague of frogs cannot be entirely ruled out.

For the time being, the markets remain sanguine, expecting, for example, a gentle increase in the Bank of England’s main interest rate to just 1.5pc by the end of the decade. And, who knows, maybe the markets are right.

But maybe it’s too quiet. Last week, Ray Dalio, the founder of the $165bn (£110bn) hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, wrote a widely-circulated note warning his clients that the US Federal Reserve risked setting off a 1937-style crash when it starts raising interest rates again.

This commentary put in an appearance on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 7:10 p.m. GMT on Monday evening, which was 3:10 p.m. EDT.  I found it in this morning's edition of the King Report---and it's worth your time.

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French Submarine 'Sinks' Entire U.S. Aircraft Carrier Group During War Games

A series of joint naval drills between the United States and France recently didn't quite turn out the way the US, no doubt, expected. The practice scenario ended with the French nuclear submarine that was acting the part of an enemy ship "sinking" the American aircraft carrier and most of its escort.

The exercises were meant to test the newly upgraded carrier, which had undergone a four year, $2.6 billion overhaul, ahead of the Strike Group's deployment.

And all those exercises went well while SNA Saphir was on the American side of the imaginary conflict, in which fictional states were attacking US economic and territorial interests. The French sub supported the American vessels in anti-submarine warfare drills. 

However, the second phase of the exercises found the French ship playing on the enemy side, charged with a mission to find and attack the Theodore Roosevelt.

And so it did, sneaking deep into the defensive screen of the Strike Group, avoiding detection by the American anti-submarine warfare assets, and, on the last day of the drill, "sinking" the Roosevelt and most of it's escort.

This cute story appeared on the sputniknews.com Internet site back on March 6---and I got this story from a reader on Sunday who wishes to remain anonymous.

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"Revolution, War, Taxes" - The Complete Paul Tudor Jones Speech

Paul Tudor Jones ruffled more than a few feathers last week when he warned first that "we're in the middle of a disastrous market mania," and second he explained that "this gap between the 1 percent and the rest of America, and between the US and the rest of the world, cannot and will not persist," concluding that "historically, these kinds of gaps get closed in one of three ways: by revolution, higher taxes or wars. None are on my bucket list." His thesis is simple and profound as the following full speech shows...

Ultimately, Tudor hopes, the free market will take hold and reward the companies that are the most just...“Capitalism has driven just about every great innovation that has made our world a more prosperous, comfortable and inspiring place to live. But capitalism has to be based on justice and morality…and never more so than today with economic divisions large and growing.

Paul's TED speech runs for 10:24 minutes---and it's definitely worth your time.  It was posted on the Zero Hedge website at 5:30 p.m. EDT on Monday---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sharing it with us.

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Hacking BIOS Chips Isn’t Just the NSA’s Domain Anymore

The ability to hack the BIOS chip at the heart of every computer is no longer reserved for the NSA and other three-letter agencies. Millions of machines contain basic BIOS vulnerabilities that let anyone with moderately sophisticated hacking skills compromise and control a system surreptitiously, according to two researchers.

The revelation comes two years after a catalogue of NSA spy tools leaked to journalists in Germany surprised everyone with its talk about the NSA’s efforts to infect BIOS firmware with malicious implants.

The BIOS boots a computer and helps load the operating system. By infecting this core software, which operates below antivirus and other security products and therefore is not usually scanned by them, spies can plant malware that remains live and undetected even if the computer’s operating system were wiped and re-installed.

This very interesting article put in an appearance on the wired.com Internet site last Friday---and I thank Norman Willis for sending it along.

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Ukraine oligarch ‘top cash contributor’ to Clinton Foundation prior to Kiev crisis

From 2009 up to 2013, the year the Ukrainian crisis erupted, the Clinton Foundation received at least $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which is headquartered in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, a new report claims.

In 2008, Viktor Pinchuk, who made a fortune in the pipe-building business, pledged a five-year, $29-million commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, a program that works to train future Ukrainian leaders “to modernize Ukraine.” The Wall Street Journal revealed the donations the fund received from foreigners abroad between 2009-2014 in their report published earlier this week.

Several alumni of the program have already graduated into the ranks of Ukraine’s parliament, while a former Clinton pollster went to work as a lobbyist for Pinchuk at the same time Clinton was working in government.

Between 2009 and 2013, the very period when Hillary Clinton was serving as U.S. secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation appears to have received at least $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation.

This interesting, but not surprising article appeared on the Russia Today website on Sunday afternoon Moscow time---and my thanks to Roy Stephens for his first contribution to today's column.

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Bank of Canada, Finance Minister, and Others Face Lawsuit for Alleged IMF Conspiracy

It would be easy to assume the people suing the Queen of England, the Bank of Canada, and three ministers for a conspiracy against “all Canadians” wear tinfoil hats.

They don’t. They may be conspiracy theorists, but they are also intelligent, thoughtful people who have a lawyer with a history of winning unlikely cases.

And despite the government’s best efforts to have this case thrown out, it’s going ahead after winning an appeal that overturned a lower court’s ruling to have it tossed and surviving a follow-up motion to have it tossed again.

The government has one more chance to have it thrown out through an appeal at the Supreme Court, but that has to be filed by Mar. 29 and that looks unlikely.

This story, filed from Toronto, easily falls into the must read category---and it was posted on theepochtimes.com Internet site last Thursday---and I thank Ken Metcalfe for bringing it to our attention.

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‘Can’t take any more’: Thousands protest in Dublin against proposed water charges

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Dublin on Saturday to demand the government drops its plan to introduce new water charges. Opponents say they can’t afford to pay and it is an austerity measure by the Irish government.

The organizers of the rally, ‘Right2Water’ said around 80,000 attended the protest. However local police said the figure was nearer 20,000 to 30,000, according to the Irish Times. This was the fourth and largest mass protest since October, when the Irish government, which is seeking re-election next year, decided to start charging the public for the water they use.

Irish politician Ruth Coppinger urged the protesters not to give in and pay the water charge. She believes that if people do not pay up, then the government will eventually be forced to drop the controversial charge.

This article showed up on the Russia Today website on Sunday at 9:55 a.m. Moscow time, which was 2:55 a.m. in Washington.  I thank reader M.A. for finding it for us.

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French President: Russia Is a "Friendly Country"

Russia is a "friendly country" for France, French President Francois Hollande told the Society magazine in an interview published on Friday.

"For me, Vladimir Putin is first of all the president of Russia," Hollande stressed, commenting on his relations with the Russian leader. "When I talk to him, I talk to Russia, and this is the country that I respect, a great country, a friendly country," he said.

Hollande admitted there are some disagreements between Moscow and Paris. "President Putin has his own interests, own vision, his own methods and things he says are not always commonly accepted," the French leader noted. "That is why I decided to talk openly with the head of state who is always speaking directly," he added.

This short article, filed from Paris, was posted on the russia-insider.com website on Saturday---and it's the second offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Switzerland, Luxembourg apply for China-led infrastructure bank

Despite negative noises from the U.S., Switzerland and Luxembourg have become the latest European nations to apply to join the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Chinese Finance Ministry announced.

Earlier in March, the E.U.’s leading economies – the U.K., France and Germany –announced plans to participate in the new international financial institution.

China's Finance Ministry released a statement on Friday saying it welcomes the Swiss decision to apply.

Switzerland is to become the bank’s founding member later this month if other nation members involved approve its candidacy.

This news story, was posted on the Russia Today website on Saturday afternoon Moscow time---and it's another offering from Roy Stephens.

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Nazi Extortion: Study Sheds New Light on Forced Greek Loans

Loukas Zisis, the deputy mayor of Distomo, a village nestled in the hills about a two hour drive from Athens, says he thinks about the Germans every day. On June 10, 1944, the Germans massacred 218 people in Distomo, including dozens of children. Zisis, who is just 48 years old, wasn't yet born at the time of the attack.

"We can't forget the Germans," Zisis says. They came to Distomo 71 years ago with their guns. "Today they are exerting power over our village with their banks and policies," he adds. He's standing in the wind on a rocky ledge, a small man in a leather jacket, and looking out over the town. Two-thousand people live here.

The massacre, which continues to shape the place today, was one of the most brutal crimes committed by the Nazis in Greece, with the carnage lasting several hours. For decades, a trial over the massacre wound its way through the courts at all levels in Greece and Germany. Greece's highest court, the Areopag, ruled in 2000 that Germany must pay damages to Distomo's bereaved.

"But we are still waiting," says Zisis. "There has been no compensation."

This very interesting essay appeared on the German website spiegel.de on Saturday---and I thank Roy Stephens for his second story in a row.  The original headline read "Greek Study Provides Evidence of Forced Loans to Nazis".

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Tsipras Heads to Berlin as Greece Prepares for Decisive Week

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Berlin with military honors amid growing speculation that the meeting will ease a deadlock between Greece and its creditors and help unlock aid.

Stocks and bonds rose on Monday ahead of Tsipras’s arrival at the Chancellery, the first official visit by the Syriza leader since his Jan. 25 election on a platform of ending the German-led austerity tied to Greece’s 240 billion-euro ($262 billion) bailouts.

After the anthems of each country were played by the German military band, Merkel led Tsipras up the red carpet and into the Chancellery, where the two leaders are holding talks, followed by a press briefing and then a working dinner.

This Bloomberg story, filed from Athens, was posted on their Internet site at 6:29 a.m. Denver time yesterday morning---and the contents of the 2:54 minute video clip---and the story underneath it---vary by quite a bit.  I consider the video clip to be worth watching, especially at the end when they start talking about the cash drain on Greece's banks last week.  The story also sports a new headline "Merkel Treats Tsipras to Red Carpet in Sign Tensions Ease".  I found this news item in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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'There are no madmen in E.U.' to send peacekeepers to Ukraine – Lavrov

The E.U. would not send a peacekeeping force to Ukraine unless the rebels endorse such a mission, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, commenting on Kiev’s request for a foreign ‘police force.’

"I believe there are no madmen in the E.U. [Previously the E.U. deployed peacekeepers] only in situations in which, as in the Balkans, all sides of a conflict agreed to it. The E.U. would never go to any region – be it southeastern Ukraine or anywhere else – unless the conflicting sides agree to such a mission," Lavrov said in an interview to Rossiya 1 channel's Sergey Brilev on Saturday.

Russia's foreign minister added that Kiev should talk to the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republic rather than Moscow to secure their backing for peacekeepers and not ignore them as it is doing at the moment.

This is another story from the Russia Today Internet site---and this one appeared there on Saturday morning Moscow time---and once again it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Top Russia Scholar Stephen Cohen: War between NATO and Russia a Real Possibility

Professor Stephen Cohen is one of the most respected authorities on Russia among American and Western scholars. He is an American scholar of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University. His academic work concentrates on modern Russian history and Russia's relationship with the United States.

This 14:57 minute youtube.com video speech showed up on the russia-insider.com website on Sunday sometime--and it's a must listen for sure---and my thanks go out to Roy Stephens once again.

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Russia threatens to aim nuclear missiles at Denmark ships if it joins NATO shield

Russia threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Danish warships if Denmark joins NATO's missile defense system, in comments Copenhagen called unacceptable and NATO said would not contribute to peace.

Denmark said in August it would contribute radar capacity on some of its warships to the missile shield, which the Western alliance says is designed to protect members from missile launches from countries like Iran.

Moscow opposes the system, arguing that it could reduce the effectiveness of its own nuclear arsenal, leading to a new Cold War-style arms race.

This Reuters article, filed from Copenhagen, showed up on their Internet site at 2:46 p.m. EDT on Sunday afternoon---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sending it.

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Alasdair Macleod: The New Order Emerges

China and Russia have taken the lead in establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), seen as a rival organisation to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which are dominated by the United States with Europe and Japan.

These banks do business at the behest of the old Bretton Woods order. The AIIB will dance to China and Russia's tune instead.

The geopolitical importance was immediately evident from the U.S.'s negative reaction to the U.K.'s announcement this week that it would join the AIIB. And very shortly afterwards France, Germany and Italy also defied the US and announced they might join. In the Pacific region, one of America's closest allies, Australia, says she is considering joining too along with New Zealand. The list of U.S. allies seeking to join is growing. From a geopolitical point of view China and Russia have completely outmanoeuvred the U.S., splitting both NATO and America's Pacific alliances right down the middle.

This is much more important than political commentators generally realise. We must appreciate that anything China does is planned well in advance. Here is the relevant sequence of events:

This commentary by Alasdair showed up on the goldmoney.com Internet site last Friday---and I thank reader M.A. for finding it for us.  It's not overly long---and it's worth reading.

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China's premier asks IMF to include yuan in SDR basket

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has asked the head of the International Monetary Fund to include China's yuan currency in its special drawing rights basket, state news agency Xinhua said.

"China will speed up the basic convertibility of yuan on the capital account and provide more facility for domestic individual cross-border investment and foreign institutional investment in China's capital market," Xinhua paraphrased Li as telling IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, in a report late Monday.

Li added that "China hoped to, through the SDR, play an active role in the international cooperation to maintain financial stability and promote the further opening of China's capital market and financial area," the report said.

China's yuan at some point would be incorporated in the SDR currency basket, Lagarde said on Friday.

This Reuters article, filed from Beijing, showed up on their website at 10:00 p.m. EDT yesterday evening---and I found this in a GATA release just after midnight Denver time.

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Pepe Escobar: Westward ho on China’s Eurasia BRIC road

“…it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger (to the U.S.) emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus also of challenging America” -  Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, 1997

What’s in a name, rather an ideogram? Everything. A single Chinese character – jie (for “between”) – graphically illustrates the key foreign policy initiative of the new Chinese dream.

In the upper part of the four-stroke character – which, symbolically, should be read as the roof of a house – the stroke on the left means the Silk Road Economic Belt, and the stroke on the right means the 21st century Maritime Silk Road. In the lower part, the stroke on the left means the China-Pakistan corridor, via Xinjiang province, and the stroke on the right, the China-Myanmar-Bangladesh-India corridor via Yunnan province.

Chinese culture feasts on myriad formulas, mottoes – and symbols. If many a Chinese scholar worries about how the Middle Kingdom’s new intimation of soft power may be lost in translation, the character jie – pregnant with connectivity – is already the starting point to make 1.3 billion Chinese, plus the overseas Chinese diaspora, visualize the top twin axis – continental and naval – of the New Silk Road vision unveiled by President Xi Jinping, a concept also known as “One Road, One Belt”.

This rather short commentary, at least for Pepe, put in an appearance on the Asia Times website on Saturday---and it's certainly worth reading as well.  It's the second offering of the day from reader M.A.

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Does Washington Intend War With Russia–Paul Craig Roberts Interviewed by The Saker

The Saker: It has become rather obvious to many, if not most, people that the USA is not a democracy or a republic, but rather a plutocracy run by a small elite which some call “the 1%”. Others speak of the “deep state”. So my first question to you is the following. Could you please take the time to assess the influence and power of each of the following entities one by one. In particular, can you specify for each of the following whether it has a decision-making “top” position, or a decision-implementing “middle” position in the real structure of power (listed in no specific order)

Federal Reserve, Big Banking, Bilderberg, Council on Foreign Relations, Skull & Bones, CIA
Goldman Sachs and top banks, “Top 100 families” (Rothschild, Rockefeller, Dutch Royal Family, British Royal Family, etc.), Israel Lobby, Freemasons and their lodges, Big Business: Big Oil, Military Industrial Complex, etc.---and other people or organizations not listed above?

Who, which group, what entity would you consider is really at the apex of power in the current U.S. polity?

Paul Craig Roberts: The U.S. is ruled by private interest groups and by the neoconservative ideology that History has chosen the U.S. as the “exceptional and indispensable” country with the right and responsibility to impose its will on the world.

Wow!  It doesn't get any more bare knuckles than this.  Paul holds nothing back.  And whether you agree with him or not, this is, without doubt, one of the most important articles that I've ever posted in this column---and easily falls into the ABSOLUTE MUST READ category.  However, as Chris Powell pointed out [and correctly so] when I sent him the story  "the intelligentsia in the U.S. has been extremely anti-Israel for years now."  That was more than apparent to all during the Israeli elections just past, so PCR is on the wrong side of this particular issue.  But, having said that, he's not far off the mark with everything else.  I thank Roy Stephens for bringing it to my attention---and now to yours.  If this doesn't scare you to death, you obviously don't understand the gravity of the situation.

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Ethiopian warplanes reported to have attacked Nevsun gold mine in Eritrea

Ethiopian fighter planes bombed the site of Eritrea's Bisha gold mine, reported Al-Sahafa, a leading Sudanese Arab daily in its March 21 edition.

According to the newspaper, heavy plumes of smoke and fire bellowed from the mine, located 150 kilometers from the capital city, Asmara.

At $300-$400 million in annual earnings, the gold mine is Eritrea's only source of revenue, the newspaper added.

The paper speculated that the raid might have been intended to distract public attention from the upcoming Ethiopian elections.

This story was posted on the asmarino.com Internet site on Saturday---and I extracted it from a GATA release that Chris Powell filed from Hong Kong.  This may have been a propaganda piece as the story over at the nevsun.com Internet site is totally different.  It's headlined "Nevsun Provides Further Update on Operations"---and they describe it as an act of vandalism.

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Nevsun reports vandalism at Eritrea mine but nothing about air raid

Nevsun Resources Ltd. is describing an attack on its Bisha mine in Eritrea as an "act of vandalism," an account that contrasts starkly with African media reports saying the mine was bombed by Ethiopan fighter jets.

In a statement released Sunday, Nevsun said vandals caused minor damage to the base of a tailings thickener at the mine during the night shift on Friday, releasing water into the plant area.

But the Ethiopian news site Tigrai Online said it had confirmed a report that the Ethiopian air force bombed the mine on Friday. Sudanese newspaper Al-Sahafa was the first to report that the attack was a military operation from Ethiopia.

A source close to Nevsun said the company is not sure what happened and isn't ruling out any possibilities until it completes an investigation. Nevsun's statement said the company has implemented additional safety precautions and no employees were harmed.

Chris Powell posted this on the gata.org Internet site shortly after I posted the above story, so I thought I'd stick this one in here without comment while we await "clarification" of the situation.
This story appeared on the financialpost.com Internet site at 7:57 p.m. yesterday evening EDT.

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Lawrence Williams: South African gold mining’s fall from grace

South Africa may have regained its position as the world’s fifth largest gold producer in 2014 when all the figures have been tallied. One estimate of global gold output in 2014 records that the country produced 168 tonnes, a small increase on 2013’s 164.5 tonnes. Not so many years ago, South Africa had totally dominated world gold production producing 1,000 tonnes a year. But latest output figures from Statistics South Africa show a serious continuing decline in monthly gold production. With new across-the-board wage negotiations coming up over the next couple of months, some suggest that this year could, as a result, see a further sharp slump in output. Initial indications suggest that the wage talks may be extremely difficult. And difficult wage negotiations in the South African context can get out of hand as witness the virtual four month shutdown of much of the country’s platinum sector in 2012. This was coupled with some horrendously violent events (including the Marikana massacre when police opened fire on striking miners killing 44) and continued reports of other violence and intimidation throughout.

It’s not that we necessarily expect this to be replicated in the gold mining sector negotiations, but inter-union rivalries between the NUM, which represents around 57% of gold sector workers, and AMCU, which tends to be more militant in its approach, which currently looks after the interests of around 25% and is seeking to replace the NUM as the industry’s main union, could add another dimension – and probably not a positive one.

This commentary by Lawrie was posted on the mineweb.com Internet site last Wednesday---and somehow I missed it.  He was kind enough to point that out on the weekend, so I'm making amends now---and it's worth reading.

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Sprott Money: Ask the Expert -- Jim Rogers

Geoff: Hello, and welcome back to Ask the Expert here on Sprott Money News. I’m your host Geoff Rutherford, and on line today we have Mr. Jim Rogers. Jim Rogers is a critically acclaimed author, financial commentator, and successful international investor. He’s frequently featured in such publications as The New York Times, Barron’s, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times, and is a regular guest on television shows around the world. Mr. Rogers is a co-founder of the Quantum Fund, a global investment partnership. After electing to retire at the age of 37, Mr. Rogers has served as a professor of finance at Columbia University School of Business, and has written four books on investment, including Hot Commodities, Adventure Capitalist, and Investment Biker. Mr. Rogers also designed the widely followed Roger’s Commodity Indices and travels the world highlighting the case for investment in commodities as an asset class. And with that, we’d like to welcome Mr. Jim Rogers. Good morning, or good night James. How are you doing today, sir?

Jim: I’m delighted. It’s actually morning here, Geoff. You’re in the night time, I think, but I’m in the day time.

Geoff: That’s right, that’s right. So Jim, we have a number of questions here from our listeners, so let’s get started here. We’ve been looking at what’s been happening with gold over the last week or so, even the last two weeks, and we’ve seen the price slide, we’ve seen the price go up. The question is, what conditions would prompt for you to sell your gold?

This 11:22 minute audio interview, complete with transcript, appeared on the sprottmoney.com Internet site on Monday---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it along.

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China's Zijin in talks to buy gold, copper mines abroad

China's Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. is in talks to buy gold and copper mining assets abroad and expects to finalise some acquisitions this year, its chairman said on Monday.

Chen Jinghe said that current market conditions were favourable for acquisitions but did not identify targets.

Some talks "have almost reached maturity. ... This year there will be some important results," Chen told a news conference in Hong Kong after the company's 2014 earnings.

This Reuters article appeared on their website at 4:10 a.m. EDT yesterday, so it was obviously filed from China, but the story doesn't say where.  I found it on the gata.org Internet site.

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Koos Jansen: Will The Shanghai International Gold Exchange Facilitate Gold Inclusion Into The SDR?

The Shanghai International Gold Exchange (SGEI) was launched in September 2014, to internationalize the Chinese gold market and the renminbi. The timing of the launch is quite remarkable though, in the context of changes in the international monetary system (IMS).

2015 is likely to force a major shift in the IMS. Two developments are worth watching, the SDR basket will be reviewed, the renminbi will probably be adopted later this year, and the rise of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an international financial institution proposed by China with many Western members; currently France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland, New Zealand and the UK. Both developments are severe blows to the US dollar hegemony.

Last week I reported on, (i) the IMF terms for the renminbi to be adopted into the SDR, (ii) if these terms can be met this year, and (iii) what the role of gold will be in the process (read China, Gold, SDRs And The Future Of The International Monetary System). Since then there has been more confirmation of renminbi adoption in the media.

This commentary by Koos showed up on the bullionstar.com Internet site on their Monday sometime---and it too is worth reading.

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Lawrence Williams: China gold demand ups when price dips

Week 10 saw gold withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange at an impressive 51 tonnes bringing the total for the year to March 13 to a shade under 508 tonnes. Thus it looks as if Q1 withdrawals are heading for somewhere around 600 tonnes plus or minus. This compares with around 564 tonnes in Q1 2014 – the highest Q1 figure recorded to date. In 2013, which turned out to be a record full year for SGE withdrawals, the Q1 figure was only 463 tonnes, but 2013 figures soared from April onwards when a very sharp gold price drop stimulated huge Chinese demand – largely satisfied by outflows from the West’s big gold ETFs. The early March downturn in the gold price this year may thus have seen increased buying by Chinese consumers yet again.

But this year one doubts ETF outflows will really figure much in the gold flow equation. Indeed so far gold ETFs have seen small inflows since January 1. If total Chinese demand, as represented by SGE withdrawals, holds up as it well may, we could be in for another boom year for continuing physical gold flows from West to East, but without net ETF liquidations one may ask from where this physical metal will materialise?

This gold-related commentary by Lawrie appeared on the mineweb.com Internet site at 11:17 a.m. in London yesterday morning.

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Lawrence Williams: Bank analysts predicting gold price and demand growth, but not nearly enough

It is so frustrating when top bank analysts ignore the data from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) and instead rely totally on data from the World Gold Council as supplied by GFMS.  The WGC admits itself that its figure of Chinese gold consumption ignores an important proportion of the gold flows into China.  Thus in its latest analysis, Barclays comes up with the WGC line that China is back to being the world’s second largest gold consumer after India, having fallen from first place 1n 2013, and then bases its assumptions as to China’s gold consumption growth accordingly.  Barclays Bank analyst, Suki Cooper, continues on this path and states that perhaps by 2020 China could be consuming half the world’s gold output.  By our reckoning it already is – and more!

Last year’s withdrawals out of the SGE, which by law handles all China’s gold imports and domestic production, came to 2,102 tonnes – down from 2,197 tonnes in 2013 – which is already equivalent to around two-thirds of global new mined gold output.  Cooper relies on the WGC data for her analysis which puts Chinese consumption at a miserly 814 tonnes, but this ignores financial elements of demand and gold disappearing into the Chinese banking system which the WGC admits may be substantial.  If these are not elements of ‘Chinese consumption’ – a matter of semantic interpretation of what is ‘consumption’  – they are certainly relevant as gold flows, and it is gold flows into Chinese hands which have to be the most important statistical data in terms of the global gold market.

Lawrie sounds more than a bit miffed in this must read article that appeared on this website yesterday.  The media isn't paying attention to the real facts of the situation regarding China and gold---and he's annoyed.  Now he has some inkling as to how Ted Butler and GATA feel as the years---and decades---slide by.  But as I've stated for years now, the WGC, GFMS, the CPM Group, The Silver Institute---they're all in bed with the powers-that-be---and anything they publish should be read for entertainment purposes only, because as a group, they all ignore the 800 pound gold and silver gorilla COMEX short positions that are sitting in the living room with them.

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On CNBC Asia, GATA secretary discusses gold market rigging and its consequences

GATA's secretary/treasurer Chris Powell was interviewed on Monday morning in Hong Kong by Bernie Lo on CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box" program, discussing gold market manipulation, the failure of mainstream financial news organizations to put critical questions to central banks about their surreptitious intervention in the gold market, the "new" gold fix in London, the market-destroying and imperialistic results of gold price suppression, and the general subversion of democracy by central banking.

A five-minute excerpt from the interview has been posted at the CNBC archives.  It's certainly worth five minutes of your time.

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Ted Butler Interview: Demeter Research

Matt and Alex interview Ted Butler, long-time silver expert and analyst. Ted discusses the issue of manipulation in the precious metals futures markets, the unusual level of movement of physical silver in and out of the COMEX warehouse system, and the unusual short-side concentration of commercial banks in Dollar Index futures.

Well, I don't have to steal any 'big picture' stuff from Ted for now, as he pretty much lays it all out in this longish, but must listen interview that was posted on the demeterresearch.com Internet site on Sunday.  The actual interview itself begins at the 4:35 minute mark.

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Mar 21, 2015

Oil, S&P Futures Soar as Quad Witch Volatility Arrives

Just as we warned not even two hours ago, things on quad-witching get exciting, and volatile.

And sure enough, after starting out the overnight session calmly and without much fanfare, U.S. equity futures have proceeded to surge on absolutely no news, but merely what appears to be the latest market-wide stop hunt, or as the CME's central bank liquidity rebate program is being put to good use.

This short Zero Hedge piece, with three excellent charts, appeared on their Internet site at 8:57 a.m. EDT on Friday morning---and today's first story is courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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Jim Grant on CNBC: Odds against the Fed getting it right

Jim Grant sounds the alarm on Fed monetary policy.  The Fed can change the way things look, but not what things are.

This 4:00 minute video clip from CBNC's "Squawk Box" is definitely worth your while, even though he said all this before the Fed spoke on Wednesday afternoon.  It was posted on the grantspub.com Internet site last night---and I thank reader U.D. for sending it our way.

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"Market Is Hyper Overpriced" Warns Retiring Fed President; "Significant Correction" Coming

Fresh from a well-publicized dollar dispute with Goldman’s Gary Cohn, recently retired Dallas Fed chief Richard Fisher made an appearance on CNBC Friday and spoke with Rick Santelli. There were quite a number of notable exchanges including the following zingers.

Santelli: “Do you think any part of the stock market being high has anything to do with the committee you just left and if you didn’t grade the economy on a curve would you still give it a 10?”

Fisher: “Well, what worries me is how totally lazy investors have gotten, totally dependent on the Federal Reserve and I find this to be a precarious situation.”

Fisher: “Are we vulnerable in my personal opinion to a significant equity market correction? I believe we are.”

This 7:11 minute video clip showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 1:36 p.m. EDT yesterday---and it's the second offering of the day from Dan Lazicki.

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When The World's Reserve Currency Flash Crashed: "I Haven’t Seen Anything Like It Since The Financial Crisis’

On Wednesday afternoon, just after the close of the market, the US Dollar, the world's reserve currency flash crashed. This is how The Wall Street Journal described the move:

In the latest episode Wednesday, a message from the U.S. Federal Reserve that it is in no hurry to raise interest rates caused a big slump in the dollar, which has run up a huge rally so far this year. The euro surged more than 4% against the buck, its biggest jump in a single day in 15 years, according to Deutsche Bank. Early on Thursday, the European currency resumed its slide.

The sheer speed of the round trip in the euro-dollar exchange rate—the world’s most heavily traded currency pair—left traders and investors reeling.

Well dear reader, I called it a near-death experience in Thursday's column---and that was before the WSJ wrote about it---and that has certainly turned out to be the case.  This must read Zero Hedge piece appeared on their Internet site at 2:23 p.m. EDT yesterday---and it's also courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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Michael Lewis Reflects on His Book Flash Boys, a Year After It Shook Wall Street to Its Core

When I sat down to write Flash Boys, in 2013, I didn’t intend to see just how angry I could make the richest people on Wall Street. I was far more interested in the characters and the situation in which they found themselves. Led by an obscure 35-year-old trader at the Royal Bank of Canada named Brad Katsuyama, they were all well-regarded professionals in the U.S. stock market. The situation was that they no longer understood that market. And their ignorance was forgivable. It would have been difficult to find anyone, circa 2009, able to give you an honest account of the inner workings of the American stock market—by then fully automated, spectacularly fragmented, and complicated beyond belief by possibly well-intentioned regulators and less well-intentioned insiders. That the American stock market had become a mystery struck me as interesting. How does that happen? And who benefits?

By the time I met my characters they’d already spent several years trying to answer those questions. In the end they figured out that the complexity, though it may have arisen innocently enough, served the interest of financial intermediaries rather than the investors and corporations the market is meant to serve. It had enabled a massive amount of predatory trading and had institutionalized a systemic and totally unnecessary unfairness in the market and, in the bargain, rendered it less stable and more prone to flash crashes and outages and other unhappy events. Having understood the problems, Katsuyama and his colleagues had set out not to exploit them but to repair them. That, too, I thought was interesting: some people on Wall Street wanted to fix something, even if it meant less money for Wall Street, and for them personally.

This very excellent essay appeared on the vanityfair.com Internet site earlier this week---and it's one of the stories I've been saving for Saturday's column.  It's a must read---and I thank UAE reader David Thorpe for sending it our way.

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Jim Rickards: Contagion Déjà Vu

As my flight from New York to Hong Kong touched down on Sept. 17, 1997, and taxied to the gate, I was startled by the plane parked at the next gate.

It was an old Boeing 707 with the words “United States of America” on top of the fuselage in a configuration eerily reminiscent of the original Air Force One that carried President Kennedy’s body to Washington from Dallas after his assassination in 1963.

But this plane did not have the familiar light blue trim of the presidential fleet. Instead, it had a dark green trim in a shade I refer to as “Treasury green.” This was the government plane transporting U.S. Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin and other officials to the annual meeting of the IMF.

I was there for the same meeting, representing Long Term Capital Management, the then mysterious hedge fund that dominated trading in government bonds of countries around the world. With me were several LTCM partners, including David W. Mullins Jr., a former assistant secretary of the Treasury in charge of federal finance and vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

This interesting commentary by Jim appeared on thedailycoin.org website yesterday---and it was originally posted on the dailyreckoning.com Internet site on Thursday.  I thank Harold Jacobsen for digging it up for us.

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Recent Economic Data Shows the Good Side of Deflation

The Fed, the ECB, and the Bank of England repeatedly tell us that deflation is extremely dangerous for an economy. Central bankers, most economists, and the media speak of deflation as one of the greatest disasters that can strike an economy.

It is stunning then, given the apparent importance of the subject — and the possible collateral damage of pro-inflation policies — that few seem to bother to ask the deeper, fundamental question: does the historical data show that deflation is actually a terrible thing? The data suggests that it is not. In fact, looking at recent GDP, inflation, and employment data, one could even say that a shot of deflation is what many economies need. Let us take a look at the recent real-life examples.

This short essay originally appeared on the Mises Institute website, but got picked up by the folks over at Zero Hedge Friday morning---and it's certainly worth reading if you have the interest.  I thank Dan Lazicki once again for sending it along.

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The Latest Flashing Red Light: Global Earnings Plunge Most Since Lehman

We will leave it to the chartists to provide an appropriate name for the formation shown below (mutation unchallenged head and shoulders?) but one that is obvious is that global stocks as measured by the MSCI world index have never been higher, and the global central bank bubble has now easily surpassed both the dot com bubble and the first housing/credit bubble.

But why the surge? We will leave that one to the economists, but we will observe that as BofA comments, "global equity 12-month forward EPS has turned negative on a YoY basis (-6.7%)."

In fact, as the chart below shows, global forward EPS is now plunging at the fastest rate since Lehman, and is down to levels last seen in 2011.

Here's another Zero Hedge piece.  This one was posted on their website at 10:51 a.m. EDT on Friday morning---and it's also courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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PAUL TUDOR JONES: Income inequality will end in revolution, taxes, or war

Legendary hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones II gave a dire warning about the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. during a sold out TED Talk in Canada this week. 

"Now here's a macro forecast that's easy to make and that's that the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest it will get closed. History always does it. It typically happens in one of three ways– either through revolution, higher taxes or wars. None of those are on my bucket list," PTJ said, according to a video of the event viewed by Business Insider. 

During his talk, Tudor Jones, who has an estimated net worth of $4.6 billion, praised capitalism.

There's no link to the Ted video, as this businessinsider.com story is basically an executive summary.  It showed up on their website at 6:38 p.m. EDT on Thursday evening---and I thank Roy Stephens for his first contribution of the day.

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Doug Noland: True Ultra-Dovishness

I have argued for a number of years now that it was imperative for the Fed to begin extricating itself from market intervention and manipulation. It was never going to go smoothly, but when it comes to dealing with market distortions and Bubbles the earlier the better. The scope of the Bubble has now grown to unprecedented dimensions – throughout virtually all securities and asset markets – and its global: stocks – small caps, mid-caps, large-caps – risky and “defensive” – growth and income; bonds – sovereign, corporate, “developed” and “developing”; and all varieties of derivatives. Anything providing a yield.

The fundamental issue is a desperate need for the Fed to commence a process of normalizing the pricing of market risk. Savings needs to generate a positive real return. The enormous ongoing flow of (unsuspecting) savings into grossly inflated risk markets only exacerbates systemic risk. The Bubbling corporate debt market needs to be tested – and some market discipline reinstated. The ETF and “bond” fund complexes, recipients of Trillions of flows, need to be tested – and market discipline allowed to run its course. The self-reinforcing stock buybacks, M&A and other “financial engineering” need to be tested by a period of tighter finance and associated risk aversion. Will they stand up?

I am convinced the underlying finance driving the markets and, increasingly, the economic boom is unstable. I believe the best kept secret is that enormous amounts of global “hot money” are flooding into king dollar asset markets – U.S. stocks, bonds, real estate and business investment. It is an unsound dynamic and it’s unsustainable.

Doug's weekly Credit Bubble Bulletin is always a must read for me---and I'll get around to it either today or tomorrow.  It was posted on his website early Friday evening---and I thank reader U.D. for sending it our way before I could find it on my own.

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California is Turning Back Into a Desert and There Are No Contingency Plans

Once upon a time, much of the state of California was a barren desert.  And now, thanks to the worst drought in modern American history, much of the state is turning back into one.  Scientists tell us that the 20th century was the wettest century that the state of California had seen in 1000 years.  But now weather patterns are reverting back to historical norms, and California is rapidly running out of water.  It is being reported that the state only has approximately a one year supply of water left in the reservoirs, and when the water is all gone there are no contingency plans.  Back in early 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the entire state, but since that time water usage has only dropped by 9 percent.  That is not nearly enough.  The state of California has been losing more than 12 million acre-feet of total water a year since 2011, and we are quickly heading toward an extremely painful water crisis unlike anything that any of us have ever seen before.

But don’t take my word for it.  According to the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti “is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine”.  What he has to say about the horrific drought in California is extremely sobering…

As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snow pack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too.

Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.

I've posted stories about this several times over the last ten years, but all the chickens are now coming home to roost.  This essay showed up on the Zero Hedge website on Monday---and it's a must read.  The embedded 13-minute CBS 60-Minutes video clip is a must watch as well.  For obvious reasons this story had to wait for today's column---and I thank reader M.A. for bringing it to our attention.

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A Police Gadget Tracks Phones? Shhh! It’s Secret

A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology.

Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns.

The confidentiality has elevated the stakes in a longstanding debate about the public disclosure of government practices versus law enforcement’s desire to keep its methods confidential. While companies routinely require nondisclosure agreements for technical products, legal experts say these agreements raise questions and are unusual given the privacy and even constitutional issues at stake.

This article showed up on The New York Times website last Sunday---and is another item that had to wait for today's column.  I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sharing it with us.

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Hillary: The New York Times Will Never Tell Us This

If she wasn’t such an ice-cold-hearted person, one might almost feel sorry for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now, before she even officially declares her candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination in 2016 to become successor to Barack Obama as President, she lands in the middle of another very ugly scandal. This new scandal might well spell the end of her presidential obsession, and that of her obsessive husband Bill Clinton to get back into the power loop.

The new scandal involves Haiti, that tormented island in the Caribbean which gets hit not only by earthquakes but also by the ravages and looting acts of the Clintons and their friends and relatives. It involves obvious misuse of Bill Clinton’s position in Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 Haitians. It involves nepotism with the brother of Hillary Clinton. It involves Hillary directly, and it involves a foundation owned by the Clinton family which works closely with a reputed Mexican narco kingpin and some of the dirtiest Clinton political associates from their days in Washington.

The timing of events here is important. On March 5, the popular web blog Breitbart published a story taken from an about-to-be-released new book by award-winning journalist, Peter Schweitzer titled, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. The book details facts around an unprecedented award for a gold mine, the first such granted in Haiti by the government in 50 years, to an obscure North Carolina company named VCS Mining to mine the Morne Bossa.

VCS Mining according to Schweitzer, had on its board of directors Tony Rodham. Never heard of him? Hillary Clinton’s family name is Hillary Rodham and Tony is her brother. Not only that, but the mining company also lists another board member, former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Bellerive co-chaired the “charitable” Interim Haiti Recovery Commission with former US President and Hillary’s husband (at least legally), William Jefferson Clinton.

I posted the story about this gold mine purchase when it first came out in early March---and I wondered out loud at the time, as to what this might be about.  Well, I don't need to doubt any longer.  This William F. Engdahl essay appeared on the journal.neo.org Internet site yesterday---and it tells all and names names.  In my opinion it's definitely worth reading, but that decision is entirely up to you.  It's the second offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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U.N. Orders Review of 1961 Crash That Killed Dag Hammarskjold

The plane had flown deep into the African night on a mission for peace. Finally, it drew near its destination in the copper mining region of what is now northern Zambia. The crew radioed for permission to descend. Then there was nothing.

On the night of Sept. 17 to 18, 1961, the plane, a Transair Sweden DC-6B named Albertina, was carrying Dag Hammarskjold, the secretary general of the United Nations, and 15 other people. Mr. Hammarskjold was on his way to meet with Moise Tshombe, the leader of a bloody secession movement in Katanga, a province of the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo with vast deposits of strategic minerals, including uranium and cobalt.

But the four-engined plane crashed minutes after the last radio contact, in a stretch of bushland eight miles from the airport at Ndola, in what was then the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia.

The crash turned a hinge in the tortured narrative of modern Africa, poised between rule by outside powers and independence. But its cause has never been established.

This event occurred in the days before we had TV in our area of Canada.  It was on the radio---and also on the weekly newsreels at the small movie theatre in our town.  Not surprisingly, it was the American government behind it.  This must read article appeared on The New York Times website on Monday---and had to wait for Saturday's column.  I thank Roy Stephens for finding it for us.

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The Decline of Vancouver

Vancouver, once a city with its own unique spin on Canadian ideals and culture, is well on its way to becoming a vacation city for the world’s rich, its economy transforming into one predicated almost entirely on catering to their luxurious proclivities, and its citizens transformed into modern serfs permitted to live in smaller dwellings on the city’s periphery, if you’ll allow me to exaggerate for effect.

Hyperbole aside, consider this: the nature of serfdom was one where serfs, unable to acquire their own plot of productive land, worked and lived on the land of wealthy nobles whom they served. In Vancouver the average person who owns a detached home made more money from capital gains on their property, roughly $100,000 per year in the last decade or so, than the average Vancouverite made in income, roughly $65,000. At those rates, it’s effectively impossible for average people without seed capital to join in on the boons of the Vancouver property boom, and so their role in the city’s largest source of wealth generation, property ownership, becomes catering to those who can take part, selling to them luxury booze, food, cars, clothes, and even their bodies. We have two classes of society forming along a divide that is growingly difficult to cross.

Real estate appreciation is not unique to Vancouver. Calgary and San Francisco, for instance, have seen gains in the real estate market near Vancouver rates, but those gains were a result of booming economies and income growth in those areas from oil and tech respectively. Vancouver has experienced no commensurate economic or income boom. According to Teranet’s housing price index, over the past 5 years Vancouver’s property prices have grown by about 23% compared to about 16% in Calgary – this despite Calgary’s economic growth running near double that of Vancouver’s over the same period. With the decline of oil prices, Calgary’s real estate market has tanked, as it would in a rational market. It’s safe to say economic prosperity has little to do with our real estate market. Anyone arguing that Vancouver growth outpaced Calgary’s because it’s a nicer place to live should note that Vancouver has been a nicer place to live than Calgary for a few decades now – suffice it to say any difference between the cities’ populations as a result of such known factors would already have been accounted for in the base population---and foreign ownership is, of course, the culprit.

This very interesting essay put in an appearance on the tumblr.com website last Saturday---and for obvious reasons had to wait for today's column.  Once again I thank Roy Stephens for sharing it with us.

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FTSE 100 breaks above 7,000 for first time

The FTSE 100 has broken through the 7,000 level for the first time in its history, propelled by investor hopes that interest rates will stay at record lows and signs that Greece will stave off a deeper financial crisis.

Britain’s benchmark index of shares climbed 60.19 points to finish the day at 7,022.51, a 0.9pc gain that took the index to its highest ever close. A new intraday record was also set, with the index touching 7,024.21 during the afternoon.

It was a landmark moment for the index, as the 7,000 level is seen as psychologically important. The FTSE 100, which was launched in 1984, first breached the 6,000 mark in 1998 and it has taken another 17 years to surpass the next milestone.

This news story appeared on The Telegraph's website at 3:12 p.m. GMT on their Friday afternoon, which was 11:12 a.m. in New York---and as Roy Stephens said in the accompanying e-mail---"Print enough money and anything is possible…".  Amen to that, bro'!

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As "Spectacular" Solar Eclipse Covers Europe, Fears Turn to Its Power Grid

Some parts of Europe witnessed a near total solar eclipse this morning, an event which, while fun to observe (not without the proper equipment please), presents a challenge for solar panels: namely, a lack of sun. As it turns out this same problem happens at night but, as The Wall Street Journal reports, the rapidity with which an eclipse darkens the earth could cause blackouts if the energy grid can’t take up the slack quick enough. Here’s more:

The solar eclipse will provide an acid test for a continent that has placed a big bet on renewable energy—but whose aging electricity grids could buckle under the strain of a sudden drop in solar power.

“Given the growth of renewables across Europe in recent years, this will require an unprecedented amount of careful balancing of supply and demand across the grid,” said Valentin de Miguel of consulting firm Accenture...

The partial disappearance of the sun Friday will place a huge strain on Europe’s energy system. Normally, when the sun goes down, it takes about an hour for the light to fade. That gives time for electricity grids to substitute the power flowing from solar panels with electricity generated from traditional sources such as coal and natural gas.  Not so with a total solar eclipse.

I flew to the "Big Island" Hawai'i back in 1991 to see my first solar eclipse.  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life---and the world's Umbra Addicts were there in all their glory.  I will be at the solar eclipse in the U.S. on August 21, 2017---as a thousand horses couldn't drag me away from it.  An eclipse is, and will always be, a temporary but unavoidable problem for any solar array---and the bigger it is and the more people that depend on it, the worse it will be, because at totality there is no sun at all---just the glorious corona, along with any solar flares that happen to be on the sun's perimeter.  For us space/science enthusiasts, this is a must read.

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Ukraine sends request for proposals for U.S.-guaranteed bond

The Republic of Ukraine has sent out a request for proposals (RFP) to banks for a new U.S. government-guaranteed bond, according to three sources.

This is the second time the U.S. government has thrown its financial backing behind a Ukrainian international bond issue.

In May 2014, the U.S. guaranteed a US$1bn Ukrainian bond maturing in 2019 through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

That bond was given a credit rating in line with the U.S. sovereign at Aaa by Moody's, AA+ by Standard & Poor's and AAA by Fitch, which is a far cry from Ukraine's credit rating, which stands at Caa3, CCC and CC with the same three agencies.

David Stockman's headline to this Reuters story reads "This Is Outrageous—–Washington To Guarantee More Ukrainian Debt So Kiev Can Fund Its Bloody Civil War"--and he may not be far from the truth on that one.  It appeared on their website at 5:18 a.m. EDT on Friday morning---and my thanks go out to Roy Stephens once again.

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‘Ukraine new spy law designed as provocation, opens whole can of worms’

If Ukrainian draft law on intelligence comes into force, we might start seeing assassinations, bomb blasts, and psychological attacks in the Donbass region, says Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute.

Ukraine's parliament has passed a law allowing its intelligence units to carry out military operations in eastern Ukraine. If the President Petro Poroshenko signs the law, it would allow special services to infiltrate and operate in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics.

RT: How does this current move from Kiev correlate with the current peace process in east Ukraine?

Daniel McAdams: I think it’s a provocation and it is designed to be a provocation. The goal is stated clearly from Kiev and it’s echoed in Washington, and to a degree in Berlin, as well, which is that Ukraine needs to be whole again - that is the point they are making including eastern Ukraine and even Crimea. So it is meant to be a provocation.

This very interesting news item was posted on the Russia Today website at 12:57 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday afternoon, which was 5:57 a.m. EDT in Washington.  I thank Roy Stephens for finding it for us.

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Ukraine SITREP Friday March 20th, 2015

Just like the Titanic, the Ukraine is sinking faster and faster.  By now, I expect that most of you must have heard of the quasi-insurrection in occupied Konstantinovka following the killing of a mother and child by a drunken Ukrainian APC crew.  Accident can happen anywhere, of course, but the quasi-insurrection which took place following this accident is indicative of the rage and hostility of the local population towards their Nazi occupiers.  The reaction of Kiev, however, was “picture perfect”: they blamed the accident on Russian provocateurs and flooded Konstantinovka with death squads.

Then there is the mini-war taking place between the “President” Poroshenko and the notorious Jewish oligarch Kolomoiskii over the control of Ukrtransnafta.  This is a clear sign of the deep process of “Somalization” taking place in which all the power in the country is divided between warlords.  Kolomoiskii is probably a far more powerful figure than Poroshenko and he controls the “neo-Khazarian Ukraine” (southern Urkraine, Black Sea cost, Odessa region) and there are many who believe that he is the man who paid for the downing of MH17 (Kolomoiski admitted to this on a private video call by Skype).  Still, he is ready to run should it be needed, and has therefore secured three citizenships: Ukrainian, Cypriot and Israeli.

As for the Ukrainian economy, it continues to behave like a 911 building and continues to tumble down at a free-fall acceleration.

This very interesting---and rather brief commentary appeared on thesaker.is website on Friday---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.  It's worth your while if you have the interest.

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Putin's war decimates Ukraine as economy shrinks 15 percent -- The Telegraph

Ukraine's economy shrank at an alarming 14.8pc over the last three months of the year, as conflict with neighbouring giant Russia and simmering civil war have devastated the country.

The economy contracted by 6.8pc in 2014, according to the country's statistical authority, but the slump could worsen to as much as 12pc in 2015 according to government forecasts.

A collapsing currency, dwindling central bank reserves and eye-watering inflation near 30pc have led to Kiev requesting a $17.5bn bail-out from the International Monetary Fund.

The government is also looking to restructure its sovereign debt pile as part of the programme.

This news story showed up on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 11:30 a.m. GMT yesterday morning local time.

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Batchelor and Cohen: Ukraine still a hot spot and getting worse

With apparently (now) three battalions of troops soon to have feet on the ground in Ukraine, war drums still pounding from politicians in Kiev and Washington and NATO spokespeople, and Minsk2 still holding, more or less, one could conclude that peace has only a chance of success. We are also informed about 1,500 or more boots connected with U.S. intelligence and other U.S. agencies in Kiev. This is clearly not about supporting Minsk2 and is all independent of growing opposition in Europe for more war in Ukraine.

War materiel is also quietly flowing into Kiev territory from the U.S. (drones and artillery tracking radar), and statements by Poroshenko and his parliament are giving strong indications that a continuation of the civil war is being strongly contemplated. Poroshenko now has funds from the IMF with which to continue his war aims. Obama, so far, is holding in support for Minsk2, but he is surrounded by opposition to the truce holding and is being out shouted by his war party.  This is a still dangerous situation and may be getting worse. Events seen boiling in the background would indicate Poroshenko is still working on a war resolution with the East.

In the meantime E.U. opposition is growing against Washington's support for more war and it is very possible that American insistence on sanctions continuing, if not increasing in scope, may bring another crisis to the E.U. Europe may not support sanctions come June when they are up for consideration by the E.U. for renewal. If it comes down to a rejection for sanctions  (which would not be dropped by Washington), this would represent a very real rift between Europe and Washington and certainly open the larger question of the continuation of the existence of NATO. Cohen states that the E.U. could very well go its own way - and perhaps with its own army. 

This 39:47 minute audio interview with Steven F. Cohen appeared on the johnbatchelorshow.com Internet site last Sunday---and for both length and content reasons had to wait for today's column.  I thank Larry Galearis for digging it up for us.

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How Crimea's Sevastopol Has Changed since Joining Russia

The last year changed many things in my life, so it will be appropriate to summarize certain intermediate results associated with the changes in Sevastopol borne of the Crimean spring. I decided not to group this in blocks, so I simply write what came to my mind during the attempts to recall what has changed over a year.

1. Crimea stopped being a part of Ukraine and became a part of Russia. I wished for this event for many years, so here my dream simply came true. Those people whose dreams come true must understand very well how this feels like.

2. Ukrainian flags and Ukrainian insignia disappeared from the city. Only very rarely one can meet Ukrainian text or old advertisement banners in Ukrainian. The city speaks Russian and after the cancellation of the obligatory use of Ukrainian, which they previously tried to implant by force, the Ukrainian language simply disappeared because it wasn't needed, even though there is no special ban on the use of Ukrainian - if one wants, one can put banners in Ukrainian, the law permits it. If one wants to speak Ukrainian, one is free to do so. All of these rights are present, but nobody uses them because there is no need to do so.

3. One may now go to a movie theater without fearing the obligatory translation of the movies to Ukrainian in a city where 99% speak Russian. For several years I didn't go watch movies for the language reasons; in the last year I was there more often than in the previous 5 years.

This boots-on-the-ground commentary showed up on the russia-insider.com Internet site on Thursday---and it's certainly worth reading if you have the interest---and it's courtesy of reader M.A.  There was also an article in Newsweek on this subject as well datelined Wednesday---and it's headlined "A Year After Annexation by Russia, Crimea Remains Bitterly Divided".  I'll leave it up to you to decide which one to believe---and I've already made up my mind.

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Russia Under Attack — Paul Craig Roberts

While Washington works assiduously to undermine the Minsk agreement that German chancellor Merkel and French president Hollande achieved in order to halt the military conflict in Ukraine, Washington has sent Victoria Nuland to Armenia to organize a “color revolution” or coup there, has sent Richard Miles as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan to do the same there, and has sent Pamela Spratlen as ambassador to Uzbekistan to purchase that government’s allegiance away from Russia. The result would be to break up the Collective Security Treaty Organization and present Russia and China with destabilization where they can least afford it.

Thus, Russia faces the renewal of conflict in Ukraine simultaneously with three more Ukraine-type situations along its Asian border.

And this is only the beginning of the pressure that Washington is mounting on Russia.

On March 18 the Secretary General of NATO denounced the peace settlement between Russia and Georgia that ended Georgia’s military assault on South Ossetia. The NATO Secretary General said that NATO rejects the settlement because it “hampers ongoing efforts by the international community to strengthen security and stability in the region.” Look closely at this statement. It defines the “international community” as Washington’s NATO puppet states, and it defines strengthening security and stability as removing buffers between Russia and Georgia so that Washington can position military bases in Georgia directly on Russia’s border.

This absolute must read commentary by Paul appeared on this website yesterday sometime---and the first reader through the door with it was Brad Robertson.

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Drills for me but not for thee: NATO launches war games near Russian border

Despite being quick to condemn Russian military manoeuvers, NATO is conducting wide-scale war games in the Baltic states and creating a “line of troops” across Eastern Europe. The US denies a double standard, but records and transcripts suggest otherwise.

Thousands of U.S. troops and hundreds of tanks have poured into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the past two months as part of an operation dubbed “Atlantic Resolve.” In February, 140 NATO vehicles and 1,400 troops swept through Narva, a mere 300 meters from the Russian border.

As you connect countries, there is almost a line of U.S. troops,” Defense News quoted Col. Michael Foster of the 173rd Airborne Brigade on March 2 as saying. U.S. forces have previously held joint war games with Baltic nations, with names such as “Saber Strike,” “Spring Storm” and “Flaming Sword.”

When asked why the U.S. was condemning Russian exercises inside Russia, State Department press official Jeff Rathke told Russia Today that no such statement had ever been made.

This Russia Today story was posted on their Internet site at 3:13 a.m. Moscow time on their Saturday morning---and I thank Roy Stephens for sliding it into my in-box in the wee hours of this morning.

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Kaspersky slams Bloomberg report on company’s alleged ties to Russian ‘spies’

Eugene Kaspersky, founder and CEO of the multibillion dollar private software security group, slammed the recent Bloomberg article as “sensationalist” and “false,” asking whether it could be linked to Equation Group revelations by his firm.

The Bloomberg article, with the catchy headline “The Company Securing Your Internet Has Close Ties to Russian Spies” was published on Thursday.

It alleges that Kaspersky Lab, a private software security company owned by Russian national Eugene Kaspersky, ignores Russian electronic espionage cases , while only unveils cybercrimes in the “U.S. , Israel, and the E.U.

You have to wonder how low the American media will stoop?  This article appeared on the Russia Today website at 7:08 p.m. Moscow time on Friday evening, which was 12:08 p.m. EDT.  It's courtesy of Roy Stephens once again.

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U.N. ruling raises hope of return for exiled Chagos islanders

Britain acted illegally in the way it has exercised territorial control over the Chagos Islands, a U.N. tribunal has ruled, raising questions over the U.K.’s claim to sovereignty and offering hope of return to hundreds of evicted islanders.

In a withering judgment, the U.K. is accused of creating a marine protected area (MPA) to suit its electoral timetable, snubbing the rights of its former colony Mauritius and cosying up to the United States, which has a key military base – allegedly used for the rendition of terrorist suspects – on the largest island, Diego Garcia.

The ruling effectively throws into doubt the U.K.’s assertion of absolute ownership, restricts the Americans’ ability to expand their facility without Mauritian compliance and boosts the chances of exiled Chagossians being able to return to their homeland.

This is the second story on this issue that I've posted in this column in the last few weeks---and is one of these stories that's worth reading only if it's of interest.  Not surprisingly, it's courtesy of Roy Stephens as well---and it was posted on theguardian.com website on Thursday.

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Xinhua: China and Germany Deepen Financial Cooperation, Germany Joins AIIB and Supports RMB Inclusion Into SDR

China and Germany conducted their first high-level financial dialogue here on Tuesday and agreed to strengthen macro-economic policy coordination, develop policy dialogue and pragmatic cooperation in fiscal and financial areas.

Representing China at the first China-Germany High Level Financial Dialogue, Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai said the dialogue was established after a decision reached by leaders from both countries during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Germany last year. The main task of this dialogue is to implement agreements reached by leaders of the two countries, he added.

Ma said that confronted with a complex and fragile global economic situation, China and Germany as important economies should strengthen policy coordination, coordinate strategic cooperation, deepen financial and fiscal cooperation, consolidate and develop the positive momentum of both economies to make further contributions to the steady growth of the world economy.

Representing Germany at the dialogue, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Deutsche Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said that Germany and China have been working together very well both bilaterally and multilaterally in financial and fiscal areas.

This story, filed from Berlin, was originally posted on the news.xinhuanet.com Internet site on Tuesday---and showed up under Koos Jansen's name yesterday on the bullionstar.com Internet site

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The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: China's financial power play?

The end of World War II marked a time of change and rebuilding, with a new political and economic order.

It saw the creation of the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, or IMF - institutions dominated then, and since, by the economic powers of the day, namely the United States and Europe.

China has been challenging that pecking order, as it emerged as the world's second biggest economy, and it's now backing a new development bank.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will be based in Beijing. And Europe's biggest economies are among nations defying the US to become founding members.

This 24:50 minute video interview/panel discussion was posted on the aljazeera.com Internet site at 7:30 p.m. GMT on Thursday---and it's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens---and I thank him on your behalf, dear reader.

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Norfolk Island self-governance 'diabolical'

The Australian federal government has described Norfolk Island's self governance as "diabolical" as it moves to scrap the territory's parliament.

But the island's chief minister says replacing the parliament with a regional council is a disappointing decision that is being imposed on unhappy locals.

The government will introduce legislation next week to strip Norfolk Island of the self governance it has enjoyed since 1979. The island's legislative assembly will be temporarily replaced by an advisory council, before local government elections in 2016.

This short and interesting news item appeared on the Australian Internet site news.com.au on Thursday afternoon local time---and I thank New Zealand reader Bob Hays for finding it for us.

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Sprott Money Weekly Wrap Up With Eric Sprott

Listen to Eric Sprott share his thoughts on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s recent policy statement, Greece’s approaching deadline with the European Union, and the outlook on gold.

This 7:23 minute audio interviews was posted on the sprottmoney.com Internet site yesterday.

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SGE Withdrawals 51 Tonnes in Week 10, YTD 508 Tonnes

Withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange, a proxy for China's gold demand, were 51 tonnes for the most recent week reported, Bullion Star market analyst and GATA consultant Koos Jansen reported yesterday, continuing a strong pattern.

Koos slid this short commentary into my in-box yesterday---and I thank Chris Powell for the above paragraph of introduction.

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Goldman, UBS Join Former 'Fixing' Banks for New LBMA Gold Price

The new London Bullion Market Association Gold Price went live for the first time on Friday, with Goldman Sachs and UBS joining the four members of the now-defunct gold "fix" in setting its electronic replacement.

Goldman and UBS joined Barclays, HSBC, Bank of Nova Scotia, and Societe Generale to set the new benchmark gold price, administered by ICE Benchmark Administration, at 10:30 GMT on March 20.

The first LBMA Gold Price was set at $1,171.75 an ounce, after five rounds of an auction to strike a balance between bids and offers.

"The London gold fixing was eclipsed today," Ross Norman, chief executive of Sharps Pixley, said. "The key question is: Will users have the necessary confidence in the number? My gut feeling is that, with six participants, yes is the answer."

When Ross Norman gives it the thumbs up, that should make you want to run screaming in the opposite direction.  The new "fix" is loaded wall-to-wall with "da boyz"---and I must admit that I was surprised to see Goldman's name pop up.  This Reuters story, filed from London, appeared on their website at 1:16 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon---and I found it embedded in a GATA release.

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UPDATE: No Chinese banks in new London Gold Fixing system – yet

The new benchmarking process for gold in London has begun today, but without any direct Chinese involvement as yet. The new London Gold Fix – or LBMA Gold Price – as it is now called is beginning with only a small change from the participants in the old system – Barclays, HSBC, SocGen and Bank of Nova Scotia, will now be joined by UBS and Goldman Sachs to make up the number to six.

According to the LBMA there is as yet going to be no direct participation by any of the three Chinese banks which have expressed interest in joining and would appear to qualify for inclusion under the strict guidelines for doing so. The first new LBMA Gold Price benchmark price under the new system came in at $1171.75 at 10:30 am GMT this morning.

For the new London gold benchmarking system to have any real validity in the eyes of many of those out there who rely on the twice daily announced gold price ‘fixes’ the sooner more participants, including most importantly the Chinese, are seen as direct participants in the process the better. Otherwise it will be seen as ‘same old same old’ and will inevitably lead to the eventual setting up of a rival gold ‘fixing’ process in the main gold consuming part of the world in Asia.

Indeed the eventual disclosure that the new additional Direct participants in the LBMA Gold Price are Goldman Sachs and UBS will add fuel to the flames of those who believe that the big bullion banks will continue to control the gold price. Maybe that was why the LBMA and IBA would not announce who the participants were right up to the time the first pricing was announced.

Lawrie Williams nails it with these comments.  It's now a group of six crooks instead of the four crooks we had before.  This must read commentary was posted on the mineweb.com Internet site at 12:24 p.m. GMT yesterday---and the first person through the door with it was Dan Lazicki.  Lawrie also had additional comments over and above what he had to say in his Mineweb article---and that's headlined ''Is the new LBMA Gold Price just another Fix? $1171.75 the first new benchmark price"---and it's worth reading as well.  It's also courtesy of Dan L.

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China to Allow More Gold Importers in Effort to Expand Market

China will allow more miners, smelters and other participants in the gold market to import bullion as it tries to expand trade in the world’s second-largest market.

Miners and smelters who meet certain production and investment conditions, as well as precious-metals coin makers and banks that are members of state-approved gold exchanges, will be able to import and export from China, according to rules jointly released Thursday by the country’s central bank and customs authority.

China is pushing to broaden the country’s gold trade as part of its efforts to link the mainland to global markets. The country began offering international institutions access to yuan-denominated gold contracts in Shanghai’s free-trade zone in September.

This short Bloomberg article, filed from Shanghai, appeared on their Internet site at 5:11 a.m. Denver time on Thursday morning---and I thank Casey Research's BIG GOLD editor Jeff Clark for bringing it to my attention, and now to yours.

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Romania gets its gold back -- after 1,900 years

The first of what archaeologist Barbara Deppert-Lippitz calls the "most sensational finds of the last century" surfaced not in a museum but at Christie's in New York. Among more than a hundred pieces of ancient jewelry for sale on December 8, 1999, was Lot 26, a spiraling, snake-shaped gold bracelet that the auction house identified as a "massive Greek or Thracian gold armband."

Christie's estimated it would sell for as much as $100,000. When the bidding stalled at $65,000, the sale was called off -- and the bracelet and its owner disappeared back into the shadowy underworld of ancient artifacts.

It took years for archaeologists and law enforcement officials in Romania to connect the armband to reports of looting in the country's central mountains. Though it has never been recovered, Lot 26 set off an international search to recover the lost heirlooms of Dacia, an empire that was once a mighty rival to ancient Rome.

This very interesting gold-related news item appeared on the nationalgeographic.com Internet site yesterday---and I found it on the gata.org Internet site---and it's certainly worth readingThe photos alone are worth the trip.

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